Very few Pakistanis know about the Jewish community living here, it would be surprising for most of us to know that Jews are also part of Pakistan,s minorities. It is generally believed that mostly Jews had migrated to Israel when Pakistan came into being, also in 1970 they were offered immigration by America, which is when most of them left. At the time of Pakistan,s independence in 1947, there were thriving Jewish communities in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Lahore. Most of the Pakistani Jews belonged to India’s Bene Israel community while some had trickled in from Afghanistan.
In 1941, a government census recorded 1,199 Jews nationwide, a local leader Abraham Reuben also became the first Jew to be elected to Karachi’s city council. Karachi is believed to have been where most of the Pakistani Jews were based, some historical buildings have belonged to Jews. There were gardens near the Arts Council building today, that were named after a Jewish lady. In 1988, the Magen Shalom synagogue in Karachi was razed to make way for a shopping mall, at that time it was said that only a handful of Jews were present to object.
In the 80,s decade, there was a Star Gate near the Karachi Airport with a huge six-pointed Jewish star on top, this does indicate some Jewish influence somewhere. There is a Star of David on Mereweather Tower as well, today this symbol also belongs to the Illuminati. The six pointed star can be seen in the ceilings, wall paneling or in the wrought iron of gates of some of Karachi,s best buildings even today.
The Star of David symbol is also found in most window panes and stained glass in buildings built upto 80 yrs ago in Rawalpindi and Peshawar e.g. Islamia College Peshawar built in 1913.
There is some speculation about the Jews of Peshawar, after the Soviet revolution in 1907 the Jews of Central Asian states migrated to Peshawar and settled in the famous Gorgatry building. Even now some of these families are doing business in Central Asia.
Rachel Joseph, the last custodian of the Jewish graveyard in Mevashah, fiercely protected her privacy and avoided exposure.
This was all she divulged on record about Jews living in Karachi. “A lot of people used to come in the ‘50s, wearing black suits, hats and with beards. There were quite a few Jews here but after General Ayub many left for London.
A few come here even now but they are in Sindhi-Muslim, Khoja or Memon families. They married Muslims or went undercover as Parsis because they fear for their lives. There are about 10 Jewish families in all, scattered in areas like Ramaswamy, Soldier Bazaar, Ranchore Lines.”
According to some, there may be as many as 70 Jewish families residing in Karachi, In the last general elections in Pakistan, it is said a Jewish community leader fought the Local Bodies Election in 2008 and narrowly lost. Jews might be living here and hiding their religious identity as it may not be possible for them to move to Israel due to absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
I came across this interesting story from a blog named Point of No Return, a comment there posted by a Jewish man leaks how the Jewish wife of the Australian Consul-General posted in Pakistan smuggled out some members of the Jewish community in the 1970s.
She is believed to have hidden them in the trunk of her car every time she crossed the border, at that point in time only diplomats were not checked at the border. It is said that she would travel to the Karachi synagogue in her diplomatic Mercedes-Benz with its licence plates covered and no Australian flag flying.
She had got in touch with Karachi Jews through the then Chief of Police, a Christian, he had also provided her with their addresses. It is unclear why she had to smuggle Jews out as there has never been any restriction on any minorities leaving or returning to Pakistan. Most probably, the real reason was that some rich Jews had been masquerading as Muslims and wanted to escape the life of duplicity.
It is thought that even now several high-profile business people claiming to be Parsis or Muslims are in fact Jews. The blog Point of No Return was contacted by such an individual, saying his family is living in the UAE and masquerades as Parsi.
The same blog mentions that General Musharraf became the first leader of Pakistan to recognise the Jews of Karachi on his trip to New York City.
Most people don’t even know that Jews exist as a minority in Pakistan, yet according to the 2013 electoral list there are Jewish voters here, these are the ones declared, many possibly pretend to be Christians or Parsis.
According to official statistics available with Dawn, there are 2.77 million non-Muslim voters in the country, and 13 districts in Sindh and two in Punjab have significant presence of these voters. Among 2.77m non-Muslim voters, 1.40m are Hindus, 1.23m Christians, 115,966 Ahmadis, 5,934 Sikhs, 3,650 Parsis, 1,452 Buddhists and 809 Jews.
So 809 Jews have their names on the voters list, many other Jews might be camouflaged as Parsis etc, Jewish minorities might be a few thousands not hundreds.
The 2003 census showed none of the government employees declared themselves as Jews, though 10 had done so in a previous census three years earlier. “Whatever happened to the 10 Jewish civil servants?” read the headline in The News Pakistan’s biggest-selling English newspaper.
‘The real news was that there were still many Jews living in Pakistan , given Pakistan’s relations with Israel and Zionism they chose to fade away into the background.
Even a former minister for religious minorities was taken aback that there were Jews in the country.’
Recently, Fishel Benkhald has been in the news as Pakistan’s last self-declared Jew leading a campaign to restore Karachi’s Jewish cemetery.
He is not the last Jewish Pakistani, just one that has chosen to come out of the shadows.
By: Sabena Siddiqi